St Croix River Road Ramblings

Welcome to River Road Ramblings.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Four Cheerios Box Tops and $1 Buys a Radio

Brother Everett and I got into radios in our early teens. It started when Uncle Lloyd loaned us a WWII.  Then I got one for Christmas from Sears.  
  Crystal Radios were very simple.  A crystal (hunk of galena -- lead ore), a tiny wire to poke into it to find a hot spot, a coil, an antenna, a ground and an earphone.  
  The simplest crystal set looks like this and can be home built easily.   (note-- all photos here are from the internet and not of my own radios, now gone, but look like them).
Coil with slider to tune, sharp pointed wire to poke into galena crystal (bottom right), and earphone and antenna and ground make a crystal radio. 
Our Cheerios cereal package had a deal-- 4 boxtops and a $1 and we could get a radio from General Mills (nearby in the Twin Cities). 

Eventually we had the boxtops (everyone saved boxtops from any product as sooner or later they would be useful for some deal) and the dollar.  

A few weeks later it came.  We opened the box, read the instructions, clipped the antenna coil to the wire clothesline, poked the earphone in our ear and sure enough, WCCO radio playing faintly if we tuned it by moving the rod up and down.  

I found a few of these for sale on the internet today, and they ranged from $60 - 100.  So instead of buying one, I instead downloaded the photos.  A memory is good enough as I probably couldn't hear the faint stations anymore.  

We ended up opening our radio, connecting a separate ground wire (soldering it on) that improved the signals and selectivity.  Eventually we took it apart and used the diode (a modern replacement for the galena crystal) and loopstick in making our own radio.  

The original packaging from an Internet sales offer 

The bottom came off if you bent the tabs that held it in.  The metal case was actually an aluminum radio part -- the shield that went over a coil.  It was made in the Twin Cities.   General Mills was a big part of early radio beginning broadcast station WCCO, beginning the first advertising on radio, the serials (cereals) shows and even in the electronics in broadcasting.  So putting out a little radio was right in line with their history. 

The loopstick coil had a metal core that slid up and down to tune the radio.  

Rocket Crystal Radios were made with the exact same insides, but more glamorous on the outside.  

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Historical Map of the St Croix Falls to Grantsburg area

   Got interested in what one can do with Google Maps.  They have the satellite maps of the whole earth online and let us create our own map layers to point out significant points of interest. 
   I am making several and have several planned.  The main one right now is a local history map that we may use for the 14th annual River Road Ramble (4th Saturday of September) 2019. 
  You can explore it at this link St Croix River Historical Map

   Another map is the Genealogical History of the Hansson family beginning in Sweden and jumping to the USA and into Wisconsin.  Each marker has an explanation and maybe a photo or link. Just starting this one.  Only have Swedish sites started as of this post. 

  I am planning a cemetery map too where our relatives are buried. 

These maps are easy to make, easy to share, multiple folks can work on them and rather fun to do.  You have to have a free google account (you can create a gmail account and that does it all).

Highly zoomed view of Skee Parish, Hansson Farm, near Stromstad Sweden.  Where our Hanssons evolved out of the ooze

Deer Hunting Season in Wisconsin 2018

Uncle Maurice raised this fawn after its mother died in a car accident.  

Today, November 17th, 2018, starts the traditional Thanksgiving week deer hunt in Wisconsin. As I am far too thrifty to hunt deer here, I instead remember hunts of the past.
As a MN resident until next spring when I hope to sell the MN home and move to WI, I have to pay the $165 non-resident hunting license; that and the shells, the $75 deer processing cost and the other incidentals costs of hunting and my decreasing interest in killing animals or birds other than mice how want to co-habit for the winter, have pushed me to retire from hunting.
My two brothers still hunt, although brother Marv is more into providing a good hunting experience for his grandchildren, and brother Ev into being surrounded by comfort in his hunting experience.
Here on the NW Wisconsin Farm, we started the day at 20F, cool breeze, small flakes of snow drifting onto the mostly bare ground; a cloudy foot freezing morning to the start of deer hunting season.
Dozens of campers, SUVs, huge pickup trucks and even a few cars headed west yesterday on Evergreen Avto the 1000s of acres of public land to the west reminded me of 60 years ago when the parade was instead,
Saturday mornings, when we boys were up early to count the string of cars headed out there in the dark to find their hunting spot. Then it was a hunter dressed warmly, his old car, and a bolt action or pump deer rifle and maybe a folding wooden camp chair, We usually counted up to 300 in the almost continuous parade of lights as they crept around the narrow dirt roadway skirting Bass Lake, came across the swamp to the Tee and headed west to their hunting spot on public land. In those days, a jeep was so rare and so cold to drive as to be remarked on--those were still the days when every 4th car had one headlight out and the owner probably had to decide between the cost of a box of rifle shells and fixing the lights.
This morning a dozen or so cars went west, and as many east. Many have their hunting shack on the barrens and have been out several weekends earlier cleaning out the mice; stocking up the food, and testing the chimney and wood stove, and last night moved in having their first liquid meal. Sterling rents its land for siting hunting camps, others just pull into an old logging trail and park.
Another group parks at the horsse camp on Trade River abandoned by horses and riders for the week, at least those who don't have blaze orange colored beasts.
The deer hunter campers are small, often pickup truck versions and generally older as compared to the luxurious behemoths used by the equine folks.
In the 50s, as light came to the Farm, we listened to the rifle shots, being able to hear them about 3-5 miles away on quiet mornings. Always some single bangs and some other bang,bang,bangs right as light came enough to see to shoot. Automatics were just coming into popularity, and most hunters had their old bolt and level actions, pumps and some single shots left from an old war.
Before dawn, Dad would have the morning milking done and when I was 12 and of hunting age, we too were headed out to hunt. We had our own cow pastures, trails and stumps picked out ahead of time and tried to sneak in before sunrise too, so that if we had timed it right, our feet had frozen about when the sun came up.
In my pre-hunting days, when the cars parade on our otherwise quiet road was still exciting, we gathered again at the big road-facing picture windows, playing monopoly while watching out the window to count the return of cars -- only those with a deer draped over the hood or trunk counted. 300 cars out in the morning and 30 deer back in the evening was what we expected.
Nowadays with campers and shacks, comfortable deer stands with heat, my morning count was 15 cars out.
Deer hunting tip #1: If your shot at a deer is a long distance, and you have an automatic; always take two shots as fast as you can. That way the first bullet breaks the air barrier and friction while the second one following tightly behind gets a free ride and as it nears the deer, pushes bullet 1 out of the way and hits the deer with more wallop. It is what racing bicyclists call drafting and geese call vee-ing (although geese, like those 1950 cars send their drafting messages with honks).

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Scanning Old Photographs Rapidly with Epson WF 7620

Epson WF 7610, 7620, 7710, 7720 -- How to scan a stack of photos
This is an educational post -- and one that will refresh my memory of the process next time I need to do it. 
   Moving from our Minnesota to Wisconsin has been interesting as I look in boxes stored away.  Some of the boxes are filled with old photographs -- from my parents and from our own, and I have hundreds of these I want to scan and have in digital format. 
   I hoped that my Epson Work Force 7620 would scan these in stacks.  It has a stack feeder called the Automatic Document Feeder (ADF)  that does double sided scans of various size papers and works good for regular paper scans.  
  The ADF smallest size says A5 (5.8x8.3 inches).  I tried a stack of 15 glossy photos 6x8 and they fed fine, didn't damage or bend the photo.  However most of my photos were 4x6.  To get them to feed they have to go portrait feed, but the two guides won't slide close enough together to hold the photos straight.  
   Looking around, I found two empty cassette tape holders and using a little Scotch tape, mounted them inside the guides.  That held the photos in place and they too scanned without problems.  I didn't try double sided as the photos were one sided and didn't want to fuss with testing that out. 
   Smaller photos didn't work -- they fed in but stopped part way through.  
   Also, as I was using the printer/scanner as a stand-alone machine, my choice for scan size smallest was A4 so had some white space to crop later and also had to rotate them later too.  Not a problem with microsoft office picture manager that came with my MS 2010 program.  Can batch crop and batch rotate and batch autofix.  
   I think I might be able to have more control over scan image size and rotation if I used my pc to control the scanner, but I don't do that much, just scan to memory device. 


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Trick or Treating 1955

    Halloween was one of the few times that we could get away from the farm, school, chores and get candy – and so we looked forward to it greatly.
    Most of our neighbors were older folks and as I remember, we only went to a few places. The next door neighbor, Leonard and Inez saved the toys from the cereal boxes for us – I remember one, a little toy airplane that flew when you blew it off of a drinking straw. But after they passed away, there was no point of even trying, as his son Raymond brooked no nonsense from us. We knew him instead, as the man who hired a kid at 85 cents an hour to load hay bales from field to mow for his cows, having no pity on us even at 100F in August, and then always rounding our hours down.
    Next lived a pleasant old couple, Bert and Hattie, who although they didn’t have any store bought candy, did give us a large brown store paper bag of popcorn. Having lived part of their lives poor, they developed a taste for fresh, hot popcorn, salted and sugared and shook in the bag with melted lard (butter reserved for company or to trade at the store). It was actually pretty good, and the brown paper bag with its rich lard soaked bottom was interesting too. The popcorn had to be made fresh from their own garden popcorn ears, shelled and popped while we waited and listened to a story or two of the olden days on the Barrens when all they had to eat was lard and bread for school lunch, and sprinkling some maple sugar on it made it palatable.
    We didn’t stop at the next two houses as both had men who drank to excess and families too poor to stop and ask for a treat.
    So our next stop was Grandpa and Grandma. Now they never bought any candy from the store, but always made it; Christmas candy ribbons, taffy, fudge and whatever Grandma thought she might try. She usually had us there to help pull and wrap the taffy – pretty good with our buttery grimy hands giving it flavor and color more than the normal Watkins flavorings she added. She loved to have us visit, and if we dressed up a little, she oohed and aaahed at her little kittens come to visit.
    I think once or twice we stopped at Uncle Maurice and Aunt Myrtle’s place and got popcorn balls; another time at Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Ramona’s and got some fudge candy with wild hazelnuts.
    Did we ever get a real store bought candy bar? Can’t remember it for Halloween. Maybe that is why I buy extra now and when no one shows up, eat on it until I get sick.
    While we were out on the road gathering our sweets, a few neighbors or cousins stopped at home and got a treat from Dad who stayed behind. I remember cousin Mike coming late and trick or treating at the door. Dad asked "If I don't give you a treat, what trick might you do?" (none of us had ever been asked that, and Mike probably never either). “Tip over your toilet, “ Mike replied (about 10 years old). “Go ahead,” said Dad, knowing his new outhouse was bolted to a full concrete foundation and likely 10 people wouldn’t be able to budge it.      When Mike looked like he might start blubbering, Dad invited him and his twin sister Marlys in and gave them a real candy bar each that had been hidden away from us.
    Then my family got religion and found out Halloween was a celebration of devil worship, and so from then on we were stuck going to the church basement bobbing for apples and playing wholesome games, while wishing we could be sinners like regular people who went to town to get real candy bars on Halloween night.

Allen Swenson -- A Sterling Original

Sterling 150th:  Allen Swenson –A Sterling Original (2006)

  “Well Russ, if you want to see a pitcher plant, you have to go out in the marsh where  they are” said my late friend Allen Swenson 4 years ago. I had admired one of his beautiful nature photos of the rarely seen plant that traps insects.  That was Allen’s gentle way of telling me that you have to make the effort to explore nature to see all of the wonderful things in your own neighborhood.  He had made the trip out into the big swamps near old family homestead on the corner of B and 87 to see what was actually there. I had whizzed past by them slightly over the speed limit.
  I knew Allen for most of my life, but at a distance whizzing by. In his last four years, our common interest in local history brought us together.  His reverence for the past and his vast local knowledge from 80 years of living on the corner started my visits. He lived only a mile from the cabin, so after he came to a few or our early history meetings, I began to stop by every month or so for an afternoon visit. We both enjoyed each the visits being in many ways alike yet having chosen lives of opposite direction.
   When I was growing up, Dad used to take our old tube radios to him for repair.  Whatever was wrong cost 50 cents or a dollar to repair using parts scrounged from the dump or old radios given to him.  Later he and Dad served on the town board together for many years. Dad thought very highly of Allen as an intelligent, honest, and competent town clerk and an neighbor.  Allen was hard for people to classify as he really one one of a kind.
    Allen was valedictorian of his Luck High School class of 1937.  He nephew Larry writes “Allen was an avid gardener, canning and freezing his own produce.  He belonged to the local gun club and loaded his own shotgun shells. Allen enjoyed hunting and fishing.  His photography was a vision into how he saw the world; his photographs were of nature and life around him on the farm.  He enjoyed working on electronic equipment and was a ham radio operator. He was a self taught man who enjoyed learning all of his life.”  When he died 3 years ago in April he was learning how to use a computer and scanner.
    Allen had his own telescope, his own photo darkroom, read widely, was well versed on the latest news and science and at the same time skeptical of politicians, religion, superstition, quackery and such.  I never knew anyone who could intelligently converse on such a wide range of issues, ideas and who had carefully thought them out. He was one of those rare natural geniuses who could do whatever he chose.  He was interested in everything and even in his 80s undiminished in mind, curiosity and memory. When someone gave him a camera lens that didn’t fit his camera he built a tiny turning lathe, cut a ring from a piece of metal tubing, turned it down and then turned two sets of tiny precise threads as an adaptor that of course worked perfectly.   
    Allan chose to live a life that allowed him as much time to read, explore nature and his interests as was possible.  He lived with his parents on the home farm. His father died when he was about 22 and he took over the farm work. His mother died many decades later and from then he lived by himself on the farm.  He did just enough farming just well enough to pay his expenses. By the standards of the community he would have probably been thought to be a poor farmer.
   I think his neighbors thought of him as Thoreau said  “he marched to the beat of a different drummer.” Robert Frost said about his own decision to become a poet rather than take a normal occupation “Two roads lay ahead.  I chose the one less traveled“ I think Allen decided that if he lived frugally and simply he could have the time to find the elusive pitcher plant; to know the stars as friends; to know each tree, grass, flower, stone, bird and animal; to understand glaciers, rivers, lakes and swamps; to really know where he lived.

    Allen and I made different choices how to live our lives. My life has passed to age 58 without having seen the pitcher plant.  Allen’s gentle reminder started me on the search. I hope to meet you there; where wet feet are to be enjoyed.

The Swenson Sawmill setup near Trade River 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Reaching a Kid with Crystal Radio

    An excerpt from some stories about my 6 years of teaching school in Wisconsin.   This one is set on Washington Island, WI -- in Lake Michigan, a ferry's ride from the tip of the Door County Peninsula.  The names are changed to protect the innocent and the guilty. 
Allen was not interested in anything.  An eighth grader, he was best buddies with Don and Dave, two brothers, one 7th and one 8th grade.  They all seemed unreachable.  They refused to do any homework; sat rigidly quiet in their desks until I wasn’t looking then shot spitballs around the room.  Years of strict discipline had honed their skills so they didn’t get caught.
  Allen was slightly more open, and at times you could see he was interested in the science experiments, but managed to keep from jumping in.  Don and Dave didn’t show any signs of loosening up.
One day, when the lesson was over, and the kids were supposed to be working on their assignments. I started a project.  I stepped out of my classroom to the schoolyard directly behind the big bank of windows so everyone could see what I was doing.  I nailed an electric fence wire insulator as high as I could reach in a nearby tree, ran a wire over to an open window by my desk.  I nailed an insulator on the wood siding as high as I could reach, then hooked the wire stretching it tightly 8 feet high, about 20 feet long.  I connected an insulated wire to this and ran it through the window into the classroom.
While I was working on this, several students came out to watch with questions of what I was doing.  My internal rules for the classroom were that kids who were learning didn’t need rules about sitting, moving, etc, and if they weren’t learning, it was probably my own fault.  I didn’t state any rules for the kids other than “behave the way you know you should,” followed up by “Gee, if you really have to go to the bathroom, just go. I don’t want to know the details!”
Continuing the project, I came back in connected another wire to the heating radiator next to my desk.  All this time the kids were bothering me asking me what I was doing, following me around including Don, Dave and Allen (most likely because they saw an opportunity for some deviltry along the way).  I wouldn’t answer questions, just made comments like “needs to be pointing towards Green Bay to pick up a strong signal,” “got to make sure the antenna isn’t getting grounded,” “needs to have a good ground.”    The kids were boisterously puzzled.
I sat down at my desk and opened a shoe box and brought out “toy.”  A six inch square wood base, mounted with an empty toilet paper roll wrapped neatly with 100 turns of copper wire, a piece of tin that slid back and forth across the roll and a tiny earphone, some connections, and a tiny little electronic component wired to the coil.   “I need to hook the antenna here, and the ground here,” clipping on my newly hung wires. Then I stuck the earphone in my ear. “Quiet, I need to hear,” I ordered everyone who by then was clustered tightly around my desk.
Moving the slider slowly across the coil, I stopped it in the middle, smiled and started moving my head and snapping my fingers as if to music.  “What do you hear? What is that thing?” Allen was in the front and absolutely fascinated by what I was doing.
“Here, try it,” I said, handing it to Allen, “stand back guys and be quiet, you can all have a turn.  It is a radio, it’s called a crystal set. I made it last night to see if I could pick up a station out here on the island.”  
Allen took charge and gave each a turn. “Where’s the battery? Can I make one,” he asked with a rush of questions after things quieted down.  
“Well, Allen, I’ll make a deal with you.  If you start working on your assignments, I will help you make one.  I have some spare parts that you can have. First thing is when you get home, save an empty toilet paper core.“
“Russ, do you know what is wrong with Allen,” Janitor Jim, asked me after school that day.  “He went into the bathroom and unrolled a whole roll of toilet paper and dumped it all in the garbage can.”  
Allen built his radio, helped several others build their own.  This was his turning point; with a few more projects (i.e. homemade model rockets, tooth pick bridges, paper airplanes and the Great Egg Drop) he took on his other work in a cheerful friendly manner that spilled over into his other classes.
That left Dave and Don and another story is how with a telescope and star chart they too got interested and active in science.

Monday, May 28, 2018

2018 Memorial Day at Wolf Creek Cemetery

Scott took 70 photos of Memorial Day at Wolf Creek, Sterling, Polk County, Wisconsin.  Here they are without editing or removing the bad ones..

Wolf Creek Cemetery Memorial Day  2018
Ninety degree temperatures didn’t stop 160 plus folks from gathering at the Wolf Creek Cemetery in Sterling Township for Memorial Day ceremonies.  One hundred twenty US flags on veteran graves, hundreds of flower pots filled with blooms as well as massive century-old lilacs and spirea gave the cemetery a festive look on a serious day.  Local folks have been remembering veterans here for over 140 years and doing it well.    
    The Veterans from the Cushing American Legion proudly marched in, standing straight as their weary bodies would allow, their  3rd  and last stop of the day for men whose wars are but history book stories to be studied in school. 
  Children recited poems and sang, the Minister exhorted, the list of 120 names were read, the rifle salute, honor guard, laying of the wreath, ending with taps bugled across the silent cemetery as folks remembered wars and wars and their casulties  that touch each family for generations.
    Soldier John R .Martin was honored with the Legion wreath this year.  The program over, folks visited and gradually drifted to the 1922 Wolf Creek School building (the Methodist Church) where the Ladies Aide had lunch read including cherry Kool Aide and potato salad.  
The Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Society continued its decade long tradition of researching one soldier’s name from the roll call.  A grave with a Civil War flag holder – John R Martin, 1831-1899 was chosen this year.  He is one of two Civil War veterans buried in Wolf Creek who fought for the Confederacy, the other being A. C. Neyman (Nimon Lake north of Cushing named for him). They rest among a dozen Union soldiers, at one time their enemy, but all grudges long ago forgotten and forgiven before they died, when old soldiers get together and swap stories of their youth, battles and comrades lost/

Sergeant ­­­John Richard Martin of the Alabama 47th Regiment, Company G, Army of the Confederacy
 John was born in Georgia in 1831, moved west to new land in Alabama in the 1850s, got drafted in the 1860s Civil War and served the Confederacy four years as a foot soldier, one of 80 survivors of the original 300 men in his unit.     
After the war, with Alabama in shambles, John, his wife Mary and their three daughters joined a group of 9 families who moved to Laketown, Polk County, Wisconsin in 1869 for a fresh start in life.  
In Wisconsin, John homesteaded 160 acres south east of Wolf Lake.   He lived a life of hard work, wresting a farm out of the deep woods, passing away in 1899 after having seen his three daughters married to local men.  Many of his descendants still live in the area with names:  Emerson, Lagoo, Doty and McCain.   
John did not believe in slavery, did not want Alabama to leave the Union that his grandfathers fought to create.  He and many of his Northern Alabama neighbors were caught in a war they did not think was right, but as men have done for ages, when drafted by politicians who start wars, put on a uniform and served.
  We remember his service today, and the service of well over 100 other veterans buried in this cemetery today. Each one has a story that should be told. 


The shade of ancient cedar trees  made 90F feel comfortable for these farmers who joked “Well we could be hauling hay,” when asked about the heat. 

That the Minister’s message was short and to the point surely was appreciated by the Veterans from the Cushing American Legion at their 3rd cemetery of the day.  

The Lagoo family gathered to remember that 5 of their uncles buried in Wolf Creek were WWII veterans. 

The home made desserts from the Wolf Creek Methiodist Ladies were standing up quite well considering the 1922 old school building has not air conditioning. 

Great to see you are still above ground

Sunday, April 8, 2018

April 7-8 at the Bird Feeder

The bird feeding season is just about over.  We try to give it up when the birds have other food and the bears tear everything down.  
Our trailcam caught what happens beside the birds at a feeder in our farm yard.  The soundtrack is from a tape I copied from Jennie Nelson of Sterling many years ago.  She and her siblings and mother were "musical."  I don't like to use copyrighted music or my videos on youtube are limited in distribution. 
It starts with a bird feeder tipped over

Then a bird feeder destroyed

Video link
24 Hours at the Bird Feeder

Trumpeter swans are waiting for nesting season to begin on Wolf Creek along Hwy 87

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

2018 Maple Syrup Season -- Slow start

The 2018 spring in NW Wisconsin has been cold and snowy.  We tapped in mid March and over 3-4 weeks have had very little sap run yet.  
April 4th, we finally cooked the sap we had collected since the beginning of season --and got about 7 gallons of syrup from batch #1.  It tastes good, is light color, but was a long time in coming. 
This week is too cold to run sap again, but next week looks better.  
  The woods has from 1 - 2 feet of snow, much of it new.  
To look at some photos of the last week and today (April 4, 2018) follow this link.  If you see bare ground--it is last week, as this week is all snow covered again.  
Maple Woods April 2018